Happy New Year, everyone! I hope that everyone has a very prosperous and fruitful 2020, as we head into a new decade. We closed out the 2019 calendar year with a busy night on the National Hockey League ice, as 26 of the 31 teams were in action. Football has Thanksgiving, basketball dominates the sports landscape on Christmas and New Year's and New Year's Day is where hockey comes in. Which is rather ironic, since many places drop a ball to ring in the new year. We should be dropping a puck! Anyway, let's get started!
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New Jersey Devils 3, Boston Bruins 2 (SO)
The Devils and Bruins couldn't solve their differences in regulation or overtime, as Jaroslav Halak and Mackenzie Blackwood has a solid goaltender duel. Halak made 42 saves, while Blackwood turned aside 28 shots, and it was tied up 2-2 after regulation.
NBC’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Wednesday’s Winter Classic clash between the Nashville Predators and the Dallas Stars from the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Coverage begins at 1:00 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here!
Brad Marchand opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 2:03 of the first period, and Devils fans were like, 'Ut-oh, here we go!'. But Blackwood settled in nicely, and so did the offense. After Joakim Nordstrom made it 2-0, Blake Coleman sliced the lead in half midway through the second with his 12th goal. Jesper Bratt then scored his eighth midway through the third to force the extra session.
New York Islanders 4, Washington Capitals 3
Head coach Barry Trotz led the Islanders into Washington, where he led the Capitals to the Stanley Cup championship during the 2017-18 season. He continues to be a thorn in their side since moving to the Island.
Casey Cizikas opened the scoring at 7:13 of the first period with help from Scott Mayfield and Leo Komarov, while Brock Nelson joined him on the scoresheet a few minutes later. Evgeny Kuznetsov answered that goal just 14 seconds later to get the home crowd back into it, and Tom Wilson squared the game at 2-2 after an entertaining first 20 minutes.
Kuznetsov and Cizikas liked the scoring thing so much that they did it again in the second period, and we were tied up 3-3 before Tom Kuhnhackl of all people scored the game-winning goal at 12:34 of the second, helping the Islanders close out the decade in style.
Semyon Varlamov came away with the win, stopping 36 of the 39 shots he faced to improve to an impressive 14-3-3. Braden Holtby wasn't as sharp, allowing four goals on just 22 shots. He looks tired lately and could use a lengthy rest.
Vegas Golden Knights 5, Anaheim Ducks 2
Korbinian Holzer waited until the 11th hour to score his first goal of the 2019 calendar year, opening the scoring in Sin City to give the visitors a 1-0 lead. It was a short-lived lead, as Mark Stone and Alex Tuch erased that lead and VGK never looked back.
Reilly Smith added an unassisted goal in the second, and Jonathan Marchessault made it four unanswered before Anaheim was able to penetrate the goal of Marc-Andre Fleury again. Speaking of the Flower, he turned aside 26 of his 28 shots in the victory.
Marchessault also added an empty-net goal, giving him a plus-3 and team-best eight shots on net in his 14:12 of ice time. Smith joined him in the multi-point club with an assist, too. Nick Holden didn't get any goals or assists, but he sent many Ducks to the cold pool after the game with seven hits, while Ryan Reaves dished out six.
Toronto Maple Leafs 4, Minnesota Wild 1
The big guns were firing in the Twin Cities for the Toronto Maple Leafs, as Auston Matthews, William Nylander and John Tavares each had a goal and an assist for the winning side. Alexander Kerfoot also joined them on the scoresheet as he opened the game with a goal in the first period.
That was all the offensive support Frederik Andersen, the newly minted All-Star, needed. He nailed down his 20th victory of the season, as the Great Dane continues to sail along. The Leafs have struggled at times, and there's no telling where Toronto would be without his amazing and consistent goaltending this season. He has looked like a potential Vezina Trophy finalist more often than not.
Ryan Suter was the only scorer for the home side, notching a power-play marker. The Wild will have a few days off to regroup before returning to home ice Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets. The Wild have a few days to knock back some Grain Belt beers and celebrate the new year in the Twin Cities.
Tampa Bay Lightning 6, Buffalo Sabres 4
The Lightning had several strong fantasy performers, but no one was better than Alex Killorn. He posted two goals with an assist and a plus-2 rating with two blocked shots and a hit in the win, as Tampa Bay rolled to a four-game regular-season sweep of Buffalo. Killorn started out slow with two goals and six points in October, followed by four goals and 11 points in November before winding up with nine goals and 17 points in December. It will be interesting to see if he can continue to improve his point totals into January.
Anthony Cirelli, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat were each in the multi-point club, too, with Johnson leading the way with a goal and three points. That ties his season best. For Palat, he has goals in back-to-back outings. He'll look for his first three-game goal-scoring streak since March 3-7, 2016 when the Lightning travel to Montreal on Thursday.
Marcus Johansson and Conor Sheary aren't exactly fantasy studs, but they were the only Sabres in the multi-point club Tuesday. Johansson had a goal and an assist, his first multi-point game since Oct. 19. Sheary had his first multi-point since Dec. 2. Jack Eichel closed out the decade with his 25th goal of the season, a shorthanded marker.
Carolina Hurricanes 3, Montreal Canadiens 1
The Canadiens had just one goal, but it was the fantasy story of this game. Max Domi lit the lamp for the sixth consecutive game. He became the sixth different Habs player to posted a goal-scoring streak of six or more games in the past 30 seasons.
For the winning side, Erik Haula posted a goal and an assist with a plus-1 rating. Originally he was a game-time decision due to an undisclosed ailment, but he made it through this one with any difficulties.
Teuvo Teravainen managed two assists in the victory. While he hasn't scored a goal since Nov. 24, a span of 16 games, he has picked up 14 helpers over the previous 11 outings to more than help his fantasy owners. That was enough for Petr Mrazek, who stopped 29 of the 30 shots he faced to improve to 2-0-0 in two outings vs. Montreal this season.
Columbus Blue Jackets 4, Florida Panthers 1
Sergei Bobrovsky returned to Columbus for the first time since leaving in the offseason as a free agent. The Blue Jackets were ready to take him down.
Zach Werenski was especially ready for him, posting his first-ever hat trick, and just the third in franchise history by a defenseman. It was the first trick by a rearguard since Bryan Berard did it Jan. 8, 2006 against the then Phoenix Coyotes, and Deron Quint also accomplished the feat March 9, 2001 vs. Florida.
Boone Jenner, Gustav Nyquist and Alex Wennberg were in the multi-point club in the win. Jenner had the team's other goal on the power play, and he added an assist. It was Wennberg's first game with multiple points since Oct. 12.
Detroit Red Wings 2, San Jose Sharks 0
Jonathan Bernier has won two straight starts since returning from a groin injury, and he was more than healthy in this one. He posted his second shutout with the winged wheel on his chest, and the 18th of his career, stopping all 34 shots he faced.
Tyler Bertuzzi, named to the All-Star team this week, notched his 15th goal of the season and it stood up as his first game winner of the season.
Winnipeg Jets 7, Colorado Avalanche 4
There were plenty of fantasy heroes for the Jets, but Kyle Connor was the biggest one. Like fellow University of Michigan alumnus Werenski for Columbus, Connor was making the hats fly with three goals. He finished with a plus-2 rating, eight shots on goal, a blocked shot and six penalty minutes. He had a hat trick in the playoffs last spring, but this was his first in the NHL regular season.
Mark Scheifele posted a goal with four points and a plus-3 rating, as he ended December on fire with nine goals and 20 points, including at least one goal in eight of his 13 games in the month.
Blake Wheeler posted two goals while adding an assist, and he finished with a plus-3 rating. He wrapped up December with seven goals and 16 points in 13 games.
Nikolaj Ehlers was good for a goal and three points, his first multi-point game since Dec. 3, and first outing with two or more points on the road since Oct. 12 in Chicago.
Neal Pionk had two assists, and Jake Roslovic managed three helpers for the winning side.
Philipp Grubauer was roughed up for five goals on 24 shots, slipping to 10-9-3 with a 2.91 GAA and .911 save percentage. He has coughed up four or more goals in three of his past five outings.
Erik Johnson had two assists, Nazem Kadri had a goal and an assist and Nathan MacKinnon buried a pair of goals, as the trio were in the multi-point club. Sam Girard also had a pair of helpers in the loss.
Chicago Blackhawks 5, Calgary Flames 3
Robin Lehner allowed three goals on 44 shots in a victory against the Flames, as he easily outshined David Rittich. The Calgary starter let in four goals on 32 shots, and had no answers for Patrick Kane.
Kane went for two goals and four points with a plus-2 rating and six shots on goal, a blocked shot and a minor penalty. Alex DeBrincat, Olli Maatta and Dylan Strome each had a goal and an assist to pace the 'Hawks.
Edmonton Oilers 7, New York Rangers 5
The Oilers and Rangers wrapped up the calendar year 2019 with a good old-fashioned track meet. James Neal led the way with the NHL's third hat trick of the night, and his second of the season. Needless to say, the Oilers have won the trade for Milan Lucic, who continues to fumble through a disappointing season in Calgary.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins posted a goal with four points, as he finished the month strong. He had just one goal and two assists in an 11-game run from Nov. 16-Dec. 20, but he is good for two goals and six points across the past four contests.
Things were going along swimmingly, as the Oilers led 6-0. But wait. Koskinen allowed five goals? Yep. The Rangers mounted a hellacious comeback, and nearly pulled even. It was Chris Kreider, Ryan Strome, Marc Staal, Artemi Panarin and Mike Zibanejad flipping the switch on the goal light before Kailer Yamamoto notched his first to shut down the comeback. Panarin ended up with three assists, too, giving him 22 or more points for the second consecutive month.
Arizona Coyotes 3, St. Louis Blues 1
Garland has a season-high three-game point streak heading into Thursday's game against Anaheim. It was more than enough for Antti Raanta, who allowed just one goal on 39 shots, an even-strength goal in the first period by Tyler Bozak.
Los Angeles Kings 5, Philadelphia Flyers 3
The Kings fired out to a 4-0 lead, as Kyle Clifford scored an even-strength goal, Alex Iafallo and Tyler Toffoli notched power-play goals and Adrian Kempe had a shorty to chase Brian Elliott after one period. Carter Hart entered, and he held down the fort and gave his team a chance to win.
Justin Braun scored his first goal of the season and he tacked on an assist, but the Fly Guys weren't done yet. Martin Frk scored on the power-play to restore L.A.'s four-goal lead, but Claude Giroux struck on the man advantage and Scott Laughton added an even-strength goal to make things interesting. In the end, Jonathan Quick settled down and had a big enough lead to pick up the win.